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ANTH411 Special Topic: The New Ethnography of Development

The paper draws on ethnographic approaches to understand how categories of development influence identity, and how contending meanings, assumptions and agendas play out in the international development industry.

This paper explores anthropological approaches to international development, particularly over the past three decades. It focuses on a literature known as ‘the new ethnography of development’, which recognises that development ideas and interventions never enter a vacuum, but rather operate through complex social, cultural, political and economic histories. The paper investigates contending meanings, assumptions and agendas that play out in the development industry. It asks questions such as: how categories of development influence identity; how policy relates to practice; and how anthropologists study the messy realities of development projects. Examples will be drawn from across the world and from a range of fields, including schemes relating to environment, social enterprise, empowerment, gender and participation. Through this, the paper probes broader anthropological themes of governmentality, agency, discourse, inequality and power.

Paper title Special Topic: The New Ethnography of Development
Paper code ANTH411
Subject Anthropology
EFTS 0.1667
Points 20 points
Teaching period Full Year
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,142.40
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $4,661.93

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72 300-level points

Teaching staff

Dr Hannah Bulloch

Paper Structure

Assessment breakdown:
20%: Essay on a development concept
10%: Oral presentation based on essay
45%: Research paper
15%: Oral presentation based on research paper
10%: Notes on readings

Teaching Arrangements

Fortnightly 2 hour seminars
Entirely internally assessed - no exam


There is no textbook. All readings are available online through the University of Otago eReserve.

Course outline

Will be available on Blackboard at the beginning of the course.

Graduate Attributes Emphasised

Global perspective; Communication; Critical Thinking; Cultural Understanding; Research; Self-Motivation
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.

Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete the paper will be able to:

  • Critically analyse assumptions and comprehend cultural specificities underlying development concepts. (Global perspective, scholarship, cultural understanding, critical thinking)
  • Develop specialist knowledge of ethnographic approaches to investigating contending meanings, assumptions and agendas in the development industry. (Research, Interdisciplinary perspective, cultural understanding)
  • Identify a range of ethical issues in development policy and practice. (Research, Ethics, cultural understanding)
  • Demonstrate advanced skills in written and oral communication on the anthropology of development. (Research, communication, information literacy, self-motivation)

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Full Year

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Friday 10:00-11:50 10, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21, 28, 30, 32, 34, 36, 38, 40